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Clematis growing along porch with allium

Growing Up with Clematis

By Charlie Nardozzi

There is no more dramatic climbing flower in the garden than clematis.

The vigorous vines produce colorful blooms either in spring, summer or fall depending on the species you're growing. While the large-flowered varieties that bloom in spring and summer are most widely known, there are a number of other clematis species that produce smaller, unique flowers in spring and fall. However, clematis has gotten a bad reputation as being hard to grow.

The key to a happy clematis vine soaring into the sky is the right sun, moisture, and fertility conditions. Clematis grow best when their tops are sunny and the roots are cool and shaded. Plant your vine where the shoots will grow in full sun and be supported on a strong trellis. However, the soil around the roots must be well-drained, yet moist. Mulch around the roots to keep them cool and healthy.

Clematis growing in vine up pole
mound of multi-colored clematis covering pole

Proper Pruning 

Another confusion is pruning. Pruning is critical to keep the vine healthy and flowers within sight. You can remove dead or weak vines almost any time. The remaining pruning cuts are based on the type of clematis you're growing.

  • If you're growing the early flowering clematis that produce small flowers in spring, such as Clematis montana, prune the vines after flowering, mostly to shape the vine and keep the plant in bounds.
  • If you're growing the large-flowered varieties that bloom in late spring, such as 'Nelly Moser', prune each vine in late winter to just above two healthy, green buds. The vine may end up being only a few feet off the ground, but it will produce healthy shoots with better flowers.
  • If you're growing the flowering clematis that bloom in mid summer to fall, such as 'Jackmanii' and 'Sweet Autumn' clematis, prune each vine in late winter to 2- to 3 feet tall. They will flower on the new growth that emerges in spring.

Once you have the growing and pruning set, then it's time to experiment with varieties. While single-colored, large-flowered varieties such as 'The President' (purple), 'Henryi' (white), and 'Niobe' (red) are beautiful and stunning to look at, consider unusual clematis varieties, too. 'My Angel' features bell-shaped, orange and pink flowers that bloom in late summer. It also has intriguing purple-colored foliage.

Once settled in a place they love to grow, clematis will give you years of enjoyment.

Happy Gardening

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About The Author: Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 20 years bringing expert gardening information to home gardeners. He speaks around the country at flower shows, master gardener groups and horticultural trade shows on gardening topics from roses to tomatoes.